While waiting for baseball season to hurry up and start – I slipped away to the canyons of Southern Utah – a place I try to get to every couple of years.
I just returned from explorations of a few canyons in Southern Utah. In this trip:
- a hike down Horsehoe Canyon, to see the glorious rock art of the Great Gallery;
- the up-and-down funhouse of the slot canyons of Bell and Little Wild Horse Canyons in the San Rafeal Swell;
- walking among the gobbledygook of Goblin Valley;
- up to the heaven-eye view toward the Navajo Knobs on the cliffs above Capitol Reef National Park.
I am in awe of the canyons of Southern Utah and all the sandstone layers of the Colorado Plateau. So much that I’ve dropped hints around my family that I want (at least some of my) ashes carried to Southern Utah to be scattered in the canyon lands.
Do you recall in the Larry McMurtry novel where Captain Call is burdened with fulfilling the wish of Captain McCrae to be buried back at Lonesome Dove, Texas? Captain McCrae inconveniently dies in Montana (by poison-tip arrow), but Captain Call is determined to see the task through.
I kind of think my youngest brother (and maybe others) has enough of Captain Call’s belligerent (i.e. blind, stupid) loyalty to trek my ashes out to some remote almost-unreachable place just because I happened to mention it in a blog entry way back in 2010.
So listen up, you Captain Calls.
The place I choose for my ashes is the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park. When I first descended into the district so many years ago, I felt the contrary feelings of being more alive than I had ever known and feeling more insignificant than even the fullest night of star-gazing could ever bring. When I looked up one of the uncountable canyons of the vast plateaus that lined the many horizons, I could see a dozen side-canyons, maybe more. And I imagined each side-canyon to hold to a dozen more offspring canyons of their own, and on into infinity. In a few trips back I’ve explored just a few of the Needle’s canyons, each possessing variations on impossible wonder borne of the permutations of sedimentation, compression, uplift and erosion.
My current election for the specific place within the Needles for my ashes is a place I have yet to make it to myself, Angel Arch. The name is perfect, of course – it might even help to get this plan past my Very Catholic Mother who a) is armed with dogmatic knowledge that frowns upon the scattering of ashes and b) has so much life-enthusiasm that she will likely outlive me, and therefore be able to monkeywrench this plan.
Angel Arch is also extremely remote – which largely explains why I have not yet been there. Most of the year there is no water and the hike is a distance greater than you can comfortably carry enough of your own water. (There may be 4WD tours that can bring you closer – but that’s cheating, Captain Call.)
Or just get them to an easier hike nearby, maybe Chesler Park. (Mom, I won’t even suggest Druid Arch.) Or seal them in a marble urn and bury them in a road-side field for all I care – after all I will be gone. The living’s wish of burial place is more a statement to self-identity than it is an unbreakable covenant. Just nod your head, Captain Call, next time I ramble about where I want my ashes.
“Yes, Captain McCrae. I’ll be sure to do that.”